News

Oddamavadi Covid burials pass 1,000

  • Over 940 Muslims buried    

By Dinitha Rathnayake 

A total of 1,001 burials of deceased Covid-19 patients have been completed in Oddamavadi, according to the former Batticaloa District Parliamentarian Seyed Ali Zahir Moulana.

He said that approximately 946 Muslims had been buried so far along with Hindus, Christians, and Buddhists, since the Government permitted the burial of Covid-19 positive deceased following pressure to rescind its controversial cremation only policy.

In March, the Government approved the burial of Covid-19 victims in the Soodupaththinachenai area in Oddamavadi, Batticaloa, and the Irakkamam area in the Ampara District. The guidelines for the burial of Covid-19 victims were subsequently issued by the Director General of Health Services (DGHS) on 3 March. The drafting of the guidelines was completed after the committee of experts appointed to examine methods for the disposal of Covid-19 victims met in February. In February, Sri Lanka reversed a controversial order which mandated the cremation of the bodies of all those who fell victim to Covid-19. The Extraordinary Gazette notification allowing the burial of Covid-19 victims was published on 25 February, amending the regulations made by the Health Minister under Sections 2 and 3 of the Quarantine and Prevention of Diseases Ordinance (Chapter 222). On 5 March, Sri Lanka began the burial of deceased Covid-19 victims at Oddamavadi in the Eastern Province.

The Government initially announced that the Health Ministry’s technical committee had approved the Iranaitivu Island in the Gulf of Mannar as a burial ground. Stating that it was decided to permit the burial of the remains of Covid-19 victims on the Iranaitivu Island, Cabinet Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said that the health authorities would announce the guidelines to be followed in this regard. However, due to protests by area residents, the island was not used as a burial ground. 

Concerns were raised by many parties, including the Parliamentary Opposition, the civil society and the international community, against the forced cremation of Muslim Covid-19 victims in the country. The Muslim community had pointed out that cremation was against their religious beliefs. More than 190 countries allow both cremation and burial as per the World Health Organisation’s guidelines.